Junk Mail – Opt Out For Everyone’s Sake

| March 16, 2011 | 1 Comment

Photo credit {link:http://www.flickr.com/photos/34517490@N00/4497134316/#/}Nick Sarebi{/link}

Junk mail is for most of us a giant pain in the neck.  It clogs up your mailbox, fills up your rubbish bin, and usually is less interesting than staring at a blank wall.

If your local junk mail distributor is a little lazy like mine can be, it may also get thrown on the ground in front of your mailbox and subsequently get blown up and down the street, or sit there and form an ugly colored mulch in the rain.

More than just an annoyance however, junk mail is actually a significant burden on the planet, not too mention your time (see below).

Why It Matters

Junk mail is a significant contributor to waste in affluent societies.  According to the Center for a New American Dream the junk mail industry in the United States alone is responsible for:

  • 5.6 million tons of landfill each year
  • 100 million trees need to be logged to make the paper needed
  • 370 million dollars annually in costs to pay for the disposal of junk mail that doesn’t get recycled
  • 8 months over the course of your life wasted opening junk mail…

In the United Kingdom, the government minister responsible for the ‘Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ estimated that “direct mail and promotions” accounted for between 500,000 and 600,000 tonnes of paper in 2002, with a mere 13% being recycled.

What To Do About It

In tackling the junk mail problem, it’s important to remember that there are two main types of junk mail.  There is the mass produced catalogs and leaflets that are distributed to every house in a given area, and there are the letters and offers specifically addressed to you.

For the first kind, the easy and simple solution is to get a “No Junk Mail” sticker and place it prominently on your letter box.  It will stop a large part of the unwanted mail delivered to any house.

The second kind – the junk mail which is specifically addressed to you – needs a slightly different approach.  Here are some simple and easy steps to tackling the problem-

For those living in the United States:

  • Start by getting registered with the Mail Preference Service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA).  It’s not a magic bullet to ending junk mail, but it will help.  You’ll be listed in the DMA’s “Do Not Mail” category. Direct marketers (i.e. those who send junk mail) are not legally obligated to check the database, but many companies that send a lot of junk mail will use it.
  • Next go to OptOutPreScreen.com, which will allow you to remove your name from the lists that various companies use to send you offers, invites and solicitations. It’s a centrally run website administered by the four major credit bureaus in the US: Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion.
  • Go to CatalogChoice and signup for a free account.  They are a nonprofit organization that will contact companies for you to stop them from sending out junk mail.
  • If you want to get proactive, you can also signup for an account with 41Pounds.  For a small annual fee (around $8 per year at the time of writing), they will go out and contact a large number of direct mail companies and notify them that you don’t want to be contacted, even before they have necessarily sent you anything.

For those living in the United Kingdom:

  • Register your details with the ‘Mailing Preference Service‘.  They’re a free service that will significantly reduce the junk mail that is sent your way.

For those living in Australia:

  • Contact the Australian Direct Marketing Association and register yourself on the ‘Do Not Mail’ list.  You can find more details here.

For those living elsewhere, all I can suggest is googling your national direct mail association, postal service etc to find out what options are available.

Regardless of where you live, keep your details a closely guarded secret.  Many organizations will share your details, or obtain them through dubious means e.g. running a competition.  You thought you were going into the run to win a car, but really you were opting into a lifetime of catalogs and brochures sent right to your house!  Keep an eye out for anything that asks you if you’d like to receive offers from “partners” of the company your dealing with etc.

So do yourself and the environment a favor. Keep the junk mail out of your mailbox and out of the landfill.

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Category: Environment

About the Author ()

Simon Ussher is the founder of SimpleSunflower.com, a co-founder of the Simplicity Institute, and a practicing medical specialist. He's passionate about the holistic benefits of simple living, and making simple living an easy and viable lifestyle option.

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  1. The Great Junk Mail Experiment — SimpleSunflower.com | April 26, 2011

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